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The Big Sucker

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The Big Sucker

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Our designers and engineers took up the challenge of creating a transportable vacuum that could clean the shells in the pot line, eliminate workplace environment hazards, and enable recaptured dusts to be recycled. It needed to be big, powerful, and able to literally suck a football through a hose.

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This is how we revolutionised the mobile vacuum unit and developed “The Big Sucker” – a trailer mounted vacuum unit powered by an 83kW diesel engine, with an air volume capability of 60m3/min handling material at rate of up to 320kg/min, over a distance of 60 metres. One of the biggest vacuums we’ve ever developed.

At Tiwai Point in Southland, New Zealand aluminium Smelter operates a primary smelter that uses pre-bake technology to produce some 330,000 tonnes of aluminium a year. The end product is produced in reduction pots located in pot lines, through electrolytic reduction of aluminium oxide. The pot shell refractory lining generally lasts around 2500 days after which it is removed from the circuit, transported to a de-lining facility and refurbished.

Prior to transportation, men used to clamber into pots with jack-hammers, rakes and brooms to remove debris such as accumulate alumina and bath. A vacuum system known locally as the guzzler did the best it could to clean up the mess and dust. But it wasn't good enough.

Not only was there still the health hazard of dust, but also the remaining material contributed to environmental pollution. Also, in the process of washing the pot shell and superstructure, washings captured as sludge needed de-hydrating before the material could be disposed of. 

What was needed was a transportable vacuum that could clean the shells in the pot line, eliminate workplace environment hazards, and enable recaptured dusts to be recycled. It would need to be big, powerful, able in effect to suck a football through a hose.

“We cleaned out an end pit in the pot lines and apart from the bath and alumina, encountered solid bath that had leaked from the pot at some point,” says NZAS’s John Moynihan. “We broke it up into hand sized pieces and fitted a 150mm hose to the vacuum and it handled it well.

Operators said its predecessor, “The Guzzler,” wouldn’t have handled the job; they’d apparently tried it before. They were impressed with the performance and I think it changed a few personal misgivings they had about the machine.”

"The performance of the Big Sucker has met the expectation of all concerned on site. The unit completes the vacuuming task with ease and is user friendly."

Superintendent at Aluminium Smelters

Download The Big Sucker Brochure (PDF, 529KB)